June 3, 2001    





Does changing your language change your thought?

My language as in my manner of speech or my language as in whether I'm talking in French or English, or what? My manner of speech reflects the way my thoughts are going. If you switch between French and English there are some things you have to do differently, thought-wise. For instance, I was translating a French poem and couldn't figure out how to do the line breaks properly, since the word order was different from the way it would be put in English. Like adjectives coming after nouns instead of being before them.

Karen, 21

I have heard that changing the language in which you think changes the structure and nature of your thoughts. I speak only English and cannot verify this idea.

Jill, 60

Weird question. I'll pass.

Fisch, 45
, CT   USA

I don't think it would, but I wouldn't really know since I haven't ever completely changed my language before. I know french but the only time I speak it is in french class so...?

Dianne, 16
Oshawa, Ontario  CANADA

This is Foucault's whole argument isn't it? That we live inside language and can only perceive a world to the extent that we have the language to describe it. I have to agree with this Just like if you don't have the ability to name an emotion lilke anger your doomed to never fully understand it. Or think of the Eskimos who have multiple names for snow to detail the substance in variable conditions. Don't you think they have a broader range of understanding of their environment than others who simply see snow.

Felicia, 35
, MA   USA

Not for me.

Laura, 36
, MA   USA

'm not sure. I would think that to learn a language and then speak it, you would have to think in that language when using it.

Jeremy, 14
Highlands Ranch

I'm not sure if I get the question, if you mean changing from English to Spanish or something I can't relate to that. If you mean changing from a formal to an informal dialogue, then I wouldn't say the thoughts themselves change, just the level of honesty or the amount of information given.

Alias Irrelevante

I would have thought so, but the church I belongs to sends missionaries all over the world but first they get a crash course in that country's language. During the training period, they are not allowed to speak English - all their communications must be in their "new" language. They soon become very proficient in that language and when they are overseas they are able to debate with priests, ministers, etc. if they have to. My husband served in

Southern France for two years and he said that for a long time he dreamt in French, and many other ex-missionaries I have spoken to have said the same thing. This leads me to believe that a change in language DOES lead to a change in thought.

Reba, 51
, MD   USA

I don't understand the question. Do you mean when I speak another language, do I then think in that language? I'm confused.

etoile , 20

Not for me, personally. I speak two languages fluently and I don't seem to think any different whichever one I'm speaking.

Shanna, 16

Neurolinguists would affirm this.

Jane, 60
West Linn
, OR   USA

Changing my language changes the thoughts of my child and of the children I teach. As they hear me use more tolerant language (accompanied by tolerant behavior and action), they learn tolerance through observation. And yes, I think over time, the use of more tolerant language can build tolerance in ourselves - but it is a much slower process than with the young.


I don't think that changing one's language changes one's train of thought. How a person thinks cannot be changed due to a different language. It might affect it somewhat but that's it.

Patti, 44

This is a very broad question.

It could mean 'change your speaking language'.For example, becoming  multi-lingual may mean you have to change your thought patterns toexpress your self clearly to the listener.

It could mean the language you might use to express your thoughts clearly as you speak, in which case, do you mean to change your language to clearly express what your are thinking at the moment?

It could also mean that if you are writing, do you need to change your language to clearly mean what your thoughts are on paper to the reader?

And finally, you could also ask, 'If you are having a bad day and you are feeling negative about the world, does changing your language change your outlook (thoughts)?

Rich, 52
, MA   USA

Duh...I aint no nothin' 'bout nothin'

age runknown, parts unknown

It can, but usually doesn't. It depends on your reasoning. It can also be said that it is changing your thought that changes your language. It's kind of one of those chicken/egg delimmas.

Firelady, 23
, TX   USA

Yesterday / Tomorrow